We Wave Goodbye to Our Test Pilot, Ben Plenge.

After three years testing the living daylights out of a plethora of kit, our test pilot Ben Plenge is moving on to focus on his own business.

As Wideopenmag continued to grow, we needed someone who could get stuck into testing product for us in the unique environment that is WO. Ben Plenge was that person, and for the last three years, he’s ridden and crashed all manner of bikes and kit to see just how good they are.

As a family man with his own business, the Strength Factory, Ben has decided to change his focus for the new year and step back from Wideopenmag.

Everyone at Wideopenmag wishes Ben the very best for the future. Cheers Ben!

Photos by Dave Price unless stated.

Photo by Aspect Media.

How did you become Wideopenmag’s chief test pilot?

I had just spent a couple of years on the MBUK Wrecking Crew doing a few freelance reviews for them and having some long term test bikes. I wanted a bit more freedom to ride more bikes and to get into a bit more depth with my writing and Jamie wanted to push the bike and gear review side of the site, so it all worked out pretty well. Just good timing really, and there wasn’t anybody else volunteering to do it.

Had you done much testing of bike product before then?

It all started in 2014 when I pitched Jamie an idea that I wanted to have a test bike to race the UK Gravity Enduro Series and write about it. He sorted a Lapierre Zesty for me that got promptly got stolen. Luckily we got past that and I did a couple of bikes and some kit on a very ad-hoc basis for Wideopenmag, before heading off to print and MBUK.

How did the way you tested stuff change over the three years?

I think that you basically just end up with a larger back catalogue of bikes and kit in your head to compare to when you get new stuff. My testing methodology is basically just to do my normal riding, sometimes alone and sometimes with mates and the bike just comes along for the ride.

I also feel like most bikes now are really good and the review process is a lot about figuring out who a bike is for and where it is best to ride it. That seems to be the game more than picking stuff apart, as bikes and components are so well sorted, on the whole.

What bike did you absolutely not want to give back?

There have been a few, and for different reasons…

The Forbidden Druid was so unique and so fast, and once I clicked with it I felt absolutely pinned on it. Shame about the colour though.

My 2020 Vitus Sommet 29 in sparkly purple was a bike that blew me away with its speed and value. That summer, on that bike I pushed my riding limits, including hitting Vision Line for the first time. And did I say, it was purple sparkly?

Finally, the new Specialized Turbo Levo is just a ridiculous bit of kit. It is mad money, but probably the bike to beat right now.

Any other kit that really stood out?

More than 2 years after getting them on test I still ride my trusty set of Deity T-Mac pedals as I still have not found a better set.

Product that failed to live up to the hype?

Not so much a product, but the endless bikes that turned up with crap, light weight tyres on them that were basically unsuitable fo the bike’s capability and intentions. So frustrating.

Product that surprised you the most?

It has to be the Revgrips that I fitted to my bike in 2020. They are about £100 for grips and there were so many haters in the comments on social media, but the reality is that they work and I loved them.

Best event you attended flying the WO flag?

I was lucky enough to ride The Ex in 2019, reporting for Wideopen and riding the new Merida E140 E-Bike. It was such a fun event with great weather, trails and food, not to mention camping with loads of mates.

Biggest crash while flying the WO flag?

There have been a few, but my recent crash at the Enduro National Champs was probably my biggest ever, resulting in a broken Troy Lee Stage helmet, bent Maxle and very sore head and body for a good few weeks afterwards. It sucked.

What’s next for Ben Plenge?

I am focussing on my business, The Strength Factory building a brand and as well as helping every day riders and pros to be the best they can be. I am also going to be dedicating more time (that was previously spent reviewing bikes) to my I am focussing on my business, The Strength Factory building a brand and as well as helping every day riders and pros to be the best they can be. I am also going to be dedicating more time (that was previously spent reviewing bikes) to my YouTube channel.

Now that I no longer have to remain impartial, I have also picked up a bike and kit sponsor with I am super excited about and will be announced soon.

Other than that, I want to carry on progressing as a rider and hope to get back to more regular racing after fatherhood and COVID meant I have only raced once in 2 years.

You will certainly still see me crop up on Wideopenmag from time to time and I wish the site all the best for the future.

Everyone at Wideopenmag wishes Ben the very best for the future. Cheers Ben!

You can follow Ben on his Instagram feed here, and check out The Strength Factory website here.

For 2022, Ben will be supported by Vitus Bikes, riding the Sommet and eSommet.


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